Is is the end of the world? Dr Joe Kosterich’s advice of COVID-19

If there was ever a song for the times it would be REM’s “it’s the end of the world as we know it – and I feel fine”. The Covid-19 or Corona virus is the proverbial only show in town. It is staggering to see how people respond to what is essentially a cold like illness.

Now let’s be straight. Some people will get a more severe illness, and some have died (mainly those over 80 and with pre-existing medical conditions). In that respect it is similar to the annual influenza season. To give some perspective so far, this northern winter there have been at least 32 million cases of flu, 180,000 hospitalisations and 18,000 deaths from influenza in the USA. The figures would be similar and possibly greater in Europe and far greater in China.

This happens each and every year. At the time of writing there have been 105,000 cases of COVID-19 across the whole world.

It is certain that it will spread and there will be more cases. Whilst this is a new strain, the family of corona virus is not new. We have all had a cold at some point in our lives and we get better. We also know that colds are contagious. In fact, they are more contagious that the flu.

However, we also know that one person in a house can have it and others do not succumb. Not everyone who comes into contact with a virus will get ill. So why all the panic about this virus? There are many answers to this. Being new gives it novelty value. The constant media coverage of every case (imagine there were news reports of every case of flu in winter) keeps it in the public eye.

This is made worse by governments and officials talking out of both sides of their mouth. On the one side it is keep calm and don’t panic. At the same time, it is lock yourself away if you cough twice.

This is not and I repeat not going to be a re-run of 1918!! The biggest issue is the refusal of those in authority to be honest with the public. The fact is we don’t know everything. It is also a fact that this virus cannot and will not be contained. We will need to take all the usual measures that we do to best avoid catching viruses.This includes washing hands, coughing into a tissue or our elbow. It includes staying home if genuinely ill.

It also includes doing what we can to support our own immune systems. Have you heard anyone in authority say that getting adequate sleep, eating a nutritious diet with good amounts of vitamins and minerals (and perhaps supplementing with Vitamin C, zinc and Vitamin D) all help immune function? Have they said that regular exercise and managing stress also support the immune system?

Of course not. That would be far to useful and simple. None of the above guarantees that you can never get ill. Supporting the immune system simply makes it less likely you get ill and more likely you will recover quickly if you do!

Before ending I have to comment on the stupidity of stockpiling toilet paper! COVID-19 does not cause diarrhoea. If you wanted to stockpile anything, facial tissues would at least make sense. Not that there is any need because cold illnesses last a week on average.

The real damage from COVID-19 will not be the mild illnesses or even that a small number will succumb to it rather than the regular flu. The real damage will come from panic and over reaction with its impact on the economy. This is already taking shape on the stock market.

There is no need to stockpile. There may be a case for battening the hatches financially till the proverbial storm passes and the market realises that the world is still turning.

Ultimately COVID-19 will go the way of every other doomsday prediction. Till then keep living your life, support your immune system and perhaps see the funny side of human behaviour.  And listen to REM.